Retd. Lt Col Vijay Batra, SM, Indian Army
A group of soldiers led by a Major were on their way to their army outpost deep in the Himalayas. They would be deployed for the next three months. They were to replace another team of soldiers anxiously waiting for their tenure to come to an end. The trek was perilous. The cold winter and the intermittent snowfall made the treacherous climb more difficult.
“If only someone would offer us a hot cup of tea,” the Major thought, knowing it was a futile wish.
They continued for an hour before they came across a dilapidated structure, which looked like a tea shop, but was locked!
“No tea, boys. Bad luck,” said the Major. But he suggested they all stop for some rest there as they had been walking for more than three hours.
“Sir, this is a tea shop and we can make tea. We can break the lock,” suggested one soldier.
The Major was in a great dilemma at the unethical suggestion, but the thought of a steaming cup of tea for the tired soldiers made him give permission to break the lock and enter.
They were in luck. The place had everything needed to make tea and also packets of biscuits. The soldiers had tea and biscuits and were ready for the remaining journey.
The Major was uncomfortable that they had broken the lock and entered without the permission of the owner. After all, they were not a band of thieves, but disciplined soldiers. He thought for a moment, then took out a Rs.1000 note from his wallet and placed it on the counter, pressed under the sugar container, so that the owner could see it. The officer was now relieved of his guilt. He ordered the soldiers to pull the shutter down and proceed.
Three months passed as they continued to gallantly fight the intense insurgency situation. It was soon time for another team to replace them, and they were on their way back. They stopped at the same tea shop, which was now open.
The owner, an old man with meagre resources, was very happy to greet his customers.
All of them had hot tea and biscuits as they talked to the old man about his life and experiences, specially about selling tea in such a remote place.
The old man had many stories to tell, replete with his faith in God.
“Oh, Baba, if God is there why should He keep you in such poverty?” commented one soldier.
“Do not say that, Sahib! God does exist. I got proof of this three months ago. I was going through very tough times because my only son had been severely beaten by terrorists. I closed my shop to take my son to the hospital. Some medicines were to be purchased and I had no money. There was no hope, Sahib. I prayed to God for help and God walked into my shop that day. When I returned to my shop and found the lock broken, I thought I had lost whatever little I had. Then I saw that God had left Rs.1000 under the sugar pot. I cannot tell you what that money was worth that day. God exists, Sahib. He does.”